Heartworms: Not so Heart-Warming this Spring

Spring is here! Dog parents all over the country are thrilled to not have to bundle up in layers just to walk their dogs. Cats are happy to watch the birds flutter by the windows, and we all love the beautiful flowers that light up our yards this time of year. As the birds return and the weather warms up, so do the pests, including the mosquitos that could potentially be carrying heartworms.

Before you let your dog frolic in the backyard for hours on end, make sure you keep her protected from hazards that come along with pests: one of the most threatening being heartworms. In order to protect your pup, it’s essential that you understand what causes heartworm disease, how it affects dogs, and how to prevent it.

And trust us, you do not want your dog to get infected.

What Causes Heartworms?

If you’ve ever smacked a mosquito that took a bite out of your arm, you should know how easy it can be to contract heartworm disease. While humans cannot get infected with heartworms, it only takes one mosquito bite for a cat or dog to get infected.

There are 30 different species of mosquitos that can transmit heartworms. Mosquitos become infected by biting an infected mammal. The heartworm larvae then develop in the mosquito’s stomach for about 10 to 30 days. Then, if an infected mosquito bites a dog, they will enter the dog’s bloodstream and migrate to a dog’s heart where they will mature, mate, a reproduce for about six months. Disgusting, right? And to make it worse, each heartworm can live five to seven years!

How Does Heartworm Disease Affect Dogs?

Yes, heartworms are gross. In fact, thinking about them makes our skin crawl, too. They look like long threads. As they mature, they get longer and longer and eventually clog a dog’s heart and surrounding vessels. As you can imagine, these threads get in the way the valves that pump blood through the heart to the body.

Developed heartworms reduce blood flow and block blood vessels. Eventually, heartworms will block blood flow to the lungs and other organs so dogs wind up struggling to breathe. As the heartworms reproduce, they create more larvae that move around with the dog’s blood and block smaller blood vessels. Both of these create significant a risk to a dog’s health. 

Heartworms are life-threatening. The most common health issue for dogs infected with heartworms is heart failure.

While we check your dog’s lungs and heart at regular checkups, you should also know the common symptoms many pet parents recognize. 

Symptoms of Heartworms Include:

  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Lethargy
  • Shortness of Breath
  •  Reluctance to Play and Run

If you suspect your dog is having trouble breathing, make sure you bring your pup by for a checkup. We can run blood tests if we hear any abnormalities that we may suspect as heartworm disease.

How to Keep Your Dog Safe and Prevent Heartworm Disease

While a mosquito seems harmless enough, heartworms are not. Not only is heartworm disease deadly, but heartworm treatment is costly, painful for dogs, and can be dangerous. Don’t risk your dog’s precious heart, life, or safety this spring.

The reality is you can’t prevent heartworm disease on your own. Luckily, we’re here to help! We offer a wide range of preventative medicines that will keep your pup safe all spring, summer, fall, and winter-long while you enjoy the sunshine and a few good games of fetch! Make an appointment to learn more about what heartworm medicine will work best for your best friend!

Photo Credit: LARISA SHPINEVA

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